In this newly established weekly column, I’ll be coming at you with one particular evaluation of what’s going on in the NBA. There was plenty to talk about in the first week, but there’s one specific topic that couldn’t go unnoticed!
Opening week of the NBA season is always the one of my favorite weeks of the year, but this one was down right insane. The performances from more than a handful of superstar players included some stat lines that the league hasn’t seen in decades.
- Ever since Kevin Durant announced that he was signing with Golden State last summer, the safe assumption for the 2016-17 season was that Westbrook would wreak havoc throughout the league considering the fact he can put up triple-doubles regularly. So far, he’s done nothing short of that. In three games, Westbrook is averaging 38.7 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game. His best performance came in a win over the Phoenix Suns where he posted 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. He became the first player to record a triple-double with 50 or more points since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975. The Thunder are off to a 3-0 start and while Westbrook’s performances have earned him as the main subject around conversations in the NBA, there is concern in whether or not they’ll be able to pull wins out against good teams. Westbrook is posting insane numbers, but the three teams they’ve played thus far combined for a total of 50 wins last season. If Westbrook has to put together historic performances to help lift his teams over the bottom feeders of the league, he could burn himself out against the upper echelon clubs.
- The New Orleans Pelicans will go as far as Anthony Davis takes them. That is the simple answer when you look down their roster and realize he is the only superstar player listed. After this week though, not even his huge performances look like he can will his way to a victory. In the first two games, Davis went for 50 and 45 points respectively, both in losing efforts against the Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors. His game against the Nuggets was the first time a player tallied at least 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and five steals since steals have existed as a statistic (1973-74). The Pelicans currently sit 0-3 on the season and it’s clearer now more than ever that Davis desperately needs help. If not, the fans may be cheated due to him preserving energy in order to extend his career for a team that surrounds him with a winning roster. Can you blame him?
- The silent assassin has become even more of a killer. It was reported that Leonard spent some time this summer training with Kobe Bryant on expanding his offensive repertoire, and it’s shown thus far. He has also improved defensively (if you can believe that). The back-to-back NBA Defensive Player of the Year will be in Sacramento Kings shooting guard Ben McLemore’s nightmares for the rest of the season after taking the ball from him multiple times like a bully does to little kids at the local basketball court. Barring injury, it’s hard to imagine Leonard’s name being absent from the MVP list when the season is winding down. If he keeps this level of play, which is realistic, he’ll be hoisting not only another Defensive Player of the Year award, but also his first MVP. Leonard has the spurs sitting atop the Western Conference with a 4-0 record and no signs of slowing down.
- DeRozan is the one star who hasn’t been talked about much so far despite ridiculous averages of 35 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting from the field. Just four of his 78 field goal attempts on the year have come from three and if you’ve watched DeRozan before, you know he’s one of the best operators in the mid-range area. He also continues to make teams pay when he visits the charity stripe, cashing in on 21-of-23 (.913) percent of this free-throws. The Raptors are currently 2-1 with their one loss coming to Cleveland by three. It’s the same old story for Toronto this season in that they’ll need DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to carry the load and lead them to another Eastern Conference Finals. DeRozan’s numbers are likely to drop (as will most of the players named) as the season progresses, but he continues to lead this team to being the most feared in the conference not named the Cavaliers.
- Lillard was expected to build off his strong season in 2015-16 and insert his name within the conversation of top five point guards in the NBA. Whenever Lillard has been doubted in his basketball career, he’s answered. This season has been no different. Lillard is averaging 35 points, eight rebounds, and 5.3 assists through three games and has the Blazers off to a 2-1 start. It’s mind-blowing how Lillard pours it on every team in the scoring column, no matter which point guard is matched up with him. Even against the Los Angeles Clippers in their one loss on the season, Lillard posted 29 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists against arguably the best defensive point guard in Chris Paul. Lillard has the mindset of Westbrook and a Kobe Bryant in that he wants to demoralize whoever is guarding him. Well, he’s doing a great job of it through week one, and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon.